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Digging In: How Gardening can Enhance Addiction Recovery


There is something empowering about connecting with nature and see your hard work pay off. From a few tiny seeds, you can grow a garden flourishing with fresh vegetables, fragrant herbs, or beautiful flowers. With some time and patience, even those who never thought they had much of a ‘green thumb’ can begin to feel the benefits of gardening. You don’t have to be a master gardener to see results.

More clients are turning to gardening as a complement to traditional therapy. They are getting their hands dirty and seeing what happens. Gardening is very versatile. For those with little space, they can try container gardening or volunteer in a community garden. Others can start a plot in their own yard or team up with a friends and family to find a nice space to plant. There are also numerous options for exactly what to plant. From fruits and vegetables to herbs or flowers, there are many different types of seeds to choose from.

But why get involved?

  • Gardening gets your mind thinking

You have to carefully plan what you are going to plant. You must consider the amount of sunlight available, water, spacing, temperature, time of year, and germination. All of these things must be taken into consideration as you decide what seeds to buy and where they should go. You also have to plot out the land accordingly to make sure everything has enough room to grow.

  • Gardening can give you a sense of purpose

An important part of recovery is staying busy and engaging in healthy activities. Sometimes clients are unsure what to do with themselves or their time. Gardening can give them something to look forward to. You have to weed, water, and prune the plants. Once the vegetables start growing, you must harvest them. You feel accountable for making sure the garden is well cared for and plants are tended to.

  • Gardening can reduce stress and boost mood

When you’re having a rough day, it can be relaxing to spend time in nature. Surrounded by plants and flowers, you can take in their beauty and delicacy. You can see how much they have grown over time. Weeding and hoeing the land can be a good way to get out pent up frustration and energy. Watering can be a methodic and systematic process that brings a feeling of calmness. Spending time in the garden can also remind you to have patience. You can’t expect results overnight. The same goes with your recovery. You must be patient and take things one day at a time. Gardening can be a good way to clear your mind and focus your thoughts on something else.

  • Gardening provides nutrition

Healthy eating is an important part of recovery. You can take pride in growing your own fruits and vegetables. They are fresh and filled with essential vitamins and nutrients. You can use your garden to incorporate more nutritious options into your meals and make them more flavorful. Try your hand at growing things you buy frequently from the store to save money, or explore new fruits and vegetables you might not have tried before. If you have an abundance, you can share with friends and family or even set up a small stand to sell them and make some extra money.

  • Gardening can build relationships

You can work together with friends and family or people in your community to grow and manage the garden. Talking things through can improve communication and problem solving skills. As you watch things grow, it can be an easy segue to start conversation. Gardening is also a fun and rewarding activity that is substance-free. You can gain a natural high from seeing the results of your hard work and enjoy the time spent with others doing something that makes a difference.

  • Gardening can be empowering

Just looking at what you have accomplished can be very rewarding and encouraging. What started out as a plot of grass or dirt, turns into a vibrant and thriving garden. You can use gardening to set goals for yourself and learn new skills. Because growing a garden takes time, it can force you to slow down and strive for greater balance in your life. As you see the results of your hard work, it can inspire you to take on other feats and new activities. You can build your courage and self confidence.

With all of the various benefits of gardening, it makes sense that more clients are getting involved and California drug and alcohol rehab centers are incorporating gardens into their programs. It is yet another part of comprehensive addiction treatment and recovery efforts. Chapters Capistrano, located in Orange County, offers a wide range of activities for clients to get involved in and is incorporating gardening as well. Contact Chapters Capistrano at 949-371-4198 to learn more about their customized addiction treatment programs.